Held under the auspices of His Highness Sayyid Shihab Bin Tariq Al Said, Advisor of His Majesty the Sultan, the GCC Rail and Metro Conference 2015 was held in Qasr Al Bustan Hotel, Muscat, Oman from 11-12 January 2015. The event was organized by Ministry of Transport and Communications in Oman, in association with the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
The event was headlined by about 500 high-ranking rail and metro specialists, as well as supporting public and private sectors from more than 25 countries. A total of 17 worksheets were presented during the conference, addressing the development of rail and metro projects in the GCC, in addition to the numerous opportunities available for the private sector to localize some of the supporting industries, and the challenges and opportunities available to improve and train GCC skills to sustain the sector in the GCC.
Discussions were held between high-ranking officials to consider the many strategies related to the development of the Transport and Communications sector in the GCC, and achieve integration between member countries throughout the rail network. Talk also included discussions on investments in this sector, partnership between public and private sectors, and the transport and communication sector’s role in intra-regional trade and logistic services.
The conference reached the following recommendations:
The need to prepare a detailed study to establish a Development Fund to achieve sustainability in the GCC Rail and Metro Sector. Called “GCC Sustainable Railway Development”, it will be financed in partnership with the private sector, and its main goals are:
Establish training programs, including on-the-job training, and establishing a GCC Academy for the training and development of national talents. This will benefit from the already available railway training institutes in the GCC countries as much as possible.
Establish programs for Specialized Railway Academic Studies, including research and technology development.
Study and establish programs to localize supporting industries for Rail and Metro projects with added value to the GCC economies.
Create a working plan and timeframe to localize supporting industries, knowledge, experience, and regional and international experiences to achieve sustainable rail and metro maintenance projects.
Develop a comprehensive strategy to achieve Integration of rail and metro projects within a comprehensive transportation system and all its forms in the GCC, including passengers and goods transportation logistics. The strategy should form a part of comprehensive strategic planning in GCC countries.
Establish effective programs to encourage experienced foreign companies in the sector to enter real partnerships with the regional private and public sectors, and to invest in rail and metro projects in the GCC, which will benefit from their professional and administrative experience. Related policies and regulations should also be developed in line with projects executions requirements, to provide a suitable environment and purchases systems that will guaranty fair competitiveness and transparency.
Member countries to ease processes to establish partnerships between GCC companies and specialized companies from developed countries who have experience in manufacturing rail projects requirements, to transfer technology and experiences to the GCC countries through establishing joint manufacturing facilities for those requirements.
Extend invitations to rail and metro specialized companies, and hold meetings with them to discuss the possibility of partnerships to establish joint GCC companies that offer passenger and goods transport services and supporting logistic services in the GCC.
GCC countries to participate as a united economic bloc in international organizations such as UIC, AREMA, and ERA, that work on developing engineering specifications and standards, and rail and metro projects regulations and legislation in the GCC, to play a more effective role in making related decisions.
The necessity of reaching an agreement between member countries to develop and improve institutional structure and establish comprehensive policies and systems to ease passenger and goods transportation between GCC countries through border posts to achieve the strategic goals and optimal use of transportation and rail sectors in the GCC countries.
The Gulf Cooperation Council most take the necessary actions in coordination with member countries to follow up the implementation of recommendations, and present a yearly report about what will be achieved, and present it to the GCC Railway project committee.
Speaking at the conference today panelists, HE Abdulrahim Hasan Naqi, Secretary General, Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FGCC Chambers), Eng. Imran Abdool Karim, Strategy & Marketing, Transnet Engineering and Mr. Nigel Ash, MD, Network Rail Consulting, did a series of short presentations followed by moderated discussion on identifying and agreeing the key areas and actions that need to be addressed to ensure effective and successful public-private participation.
HE Abdulrahim Hasan Naqi spoke about government policies and regulations for the development of the rail and metro projects – procurement, and labour issues.
“In terms of labour, we are focusing on how to encourage GCC nationals to find employment through various programmes. These include training programmes, vocational and professional development initiatives such as the training development that Saudi Arabian Railways has established for building railway related skills and capability.
“We are encouraging entrepreneurs and SMEs to be involved in this project- the Saudi metro projects, including the one in Riyadh, are focused on being established as public private partnerships. We are also inviting the GCC private sector to get involved in the policies for the railway to enhance transparency and corporate governance.”
Also a part of the panel discussions today, Mr Nigel Ash, MD, Network Rail Consulting outlined the key lessons that the GCC rail and metro sector can use for defining a vocational development strategy.
He said: “There needs to be a greater focus on the development of key vocational skills concerning the operation and maintenance of a live railway system. The construction project may only last 5 years but the railways will last for decades to come.
“Partnering with a large international railway operator can help accelerate the development of the institutional capacity of the railway,” he concluded.
The GCC Rail and Metro Conference 2015 was headlined by high-ranking government officials from the GCC States’ Ministries of Transport, Trade and Commerce, and Finance, alongside top executives from Etihad Rail, Saudi Railways Organization, Saudi Railway Company, Qatar Rail, and Oman Rail.